A dream project turned into a contractors’ project

The Polavaram project, also known as the Indira Sagar Project, is a long-cherished dream of the people of Andhra Pradesh.

However, thanks to the TDP government, it has turned into a dream project of the corrupt contractors in the last four years.

Polavaram is a multi-purpose irrigation project located on the river Godavari near Ramayyapet village of Polavaram Mandal of West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh. Once completed, the project will answer all the water needs of the state, which has a large population of farmers.

The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act 2014 declared the Polavaram Irrigation Project as a National Project in March 2014.

The Act clearly declared “that it is expedient in the public interest that the Union should take under its control the regulation and development of the Polavaram Irrigation Project for the purposes of irrigation.”

It further read: “The central government shall execute the project and obtain all requisite clearances including environmental, forests, and rehabilitation and resettlement norms.”

However, at the request of Chandrababu Naidu, the Government of India later agreed to the execution of the project by the state government on behalf of the Government of India.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley categorically stated that it was Chandrababu Naidu who had asked for the Polavaram project and had taken over from the Centre through the State Reorganisation Act states that the Centre should complete it.

It is clear that Chandrababu Naidu took over the project from the Centre with ulterior motives and the CAG report highlighting the shortcomings in the implementation of the project is a vindication of this charge.

The CAG in its audit report for the year ended March 2017 says, “Department extended a number of concessions to the contractors in violation of contract conditions. Department’s enforcement of contract conditions was also weak in respect of works related to connectivities, Left Main Canal and Right Main Canal. As of July 2017, the progress of works was 55 per cent, 65 per cent, and 91 per cent, respectively.”

Clearly, Chandrababu Naidu government needs to do a lot of explaining. Today, when people are asking genuine questions over the delay and the shoddy implementation, it can’t get away by shifting the blame on the Centre and the opposition parties in the state.

If the TDP government had worked sincerely to complete the project, the people of Andhra Pradesh would today be a happy lot. However, that did not happen. In the last four years, the Chandrababu government has turned this dream project into a web of falsehoods.

The last four years have been a story of compromises, poor decisions and wilful neglect of what could have turned the fortunes of this fledgeling state post division.

Here are some of the issues plaguing the Polavaram project that need urgent attention:

  • Failure to compact sand to achieve 98% to 100% compaction using appropriate machinery below the Earth-cum-Rock Fill Dam: It is said that only 80% compaction is achieved due o which there is a possibility of post-settlement. This may cause damage to the Earth cum Rock Fill Dam, by way of development of shear cracks at the junction of ECRF and the Diaphragm wall.
  • This will also increase the risk to the dam from earthquakes as the dam site falls under earthquake-prone rift Zone-III and involves Seismic Risks. The Koyna reservoir, located under similar earthquake danger Zone, experienced a major earthquake due to reservoir-induced seismicity and suffered cracks in the Dam resulting in serious damage in 1967.
  • Higher the height of the Dam, greater will be the damage due to earthquakes in the rift zones. This aspect needs to be taken into account.
  • It is reported that at some areas along the length of the dam, it is covered with Grade-IV highly weathered greyish highly fractured khondalite. It is reported by NHPC (National Hydro Power Corporation) on the Geology of the project area, stating that exceptionally high permeability in bedrock is observed in some deep holes (178 Lugeon in some boreholes) Diaphragm wall is raised without strengthening by way of grouting the highly fractured Khondalite zones. There is the possibility of seepage taking place through this fractured Khondalite, leading to damages to the structure. There is a need to constitute an expert technical team having knowledge and experience to examine and submit its report, keeping the safety of the DAM as paramount.
  • According to the report of NHPC, soil investigations were not carried out at the location proposed for the construction of the Coffer Dam. There is a need to make the geological survey report with recommendations, released to the public and to the team of experts for verification.
  • As per the preliminary estimates, it was recommended to carry out 30m depth jet grouting on the upstream side of Coffer Dam, when the height of the Coffer Dam was planned to +31.00m. Subsequently, the Coffer Dam height was changed to +42.50m, but the depth of jet grouting was decreased to 20m (instead of increasing the depth of treatment). On account of the decreased depth of jet grouting, there is a possibility of permeability taking place beneath the Coffer Dam, leading to piping and damages.
  • The existing strength of supervisory staff is not proportionate to the quantity of concrete being poured per day (Approximately 5000 to 7000 cubic meter). There is a likelihood that this would adversely affect the quality of execution. There is a need to take core samples and test them for quality check. Further, it is required to check if the existing supervisory staff strength satisfies the yardsticks fixed by the government for similar works.
  • At some concrete batching plants, no cooling system exists. Concrete poured without cooling may be subjected to a heat of Hydration and this could lead to the development of cracks in the concrete. Need to test core samples of concrete for quality check.
  • M/s Transstroy Company was paid a mobilization advance of Rs 609 crore (with interest). The company was also paid Rs 112 crores for the work not executed. A few crores of rupees were also spent from the imprest account of the superintending engineer. There is a need to find the ways for recovery of these amounts from M/s Transstroy Company.
  • According to a report in Eenadu Daily on 15.06.2017, “experts opined that the density of soil existing in spillway channel is less and hence to replace the existing soil with some other soil (or) to treat the existing soil to the required density”. But the Blocks in the spillway are being constructed without any kind of treatment. Particularly the soil on the right side offset at chainage 1000m to 2000m (from 200m to 500m), the density is very low. If tested, the actual position will be known, and action can be taken appropriately to prevent damages to the spill channel.
  • It is alleged that in the beginning, construction of spill channel CC Blocks and Jet grouting were carried out without approval from the Central Water Commission (CWC). There is a need to examine these works to know if the specifications required were met. Also, the quality of jet grouting work, rates paid and usage needs to be examined. Further, there is a need to know the status of columns for the load coming on them after the construction of the Coffer Dam.
  • It is also alleged that approvals were accorded for Mix Designs blindly, basing on the information given by inexperienced Transstroy (India) Ltd Engineers. There is a need to cross verify the Mix Designs adopted for quality and strength.
  • It is reported that a part of excavation on the chainage 0.01 (Fish ladder side) is to be carried out for spillway (Hill-1 side). There is a likelihood of nearby concrete getting disturbed due to blasting operations. How far it is desirable is to be examined.
  • In India, nearly 40 Earth and Concrete Dams have been breached in the past. There is an urgent need to conduct a detailed analysis of the failure of Dams in order to take preventive steps at the POLAVARAM Project.
  • It is reported that on the upstream side of Polavaram Project, exists whirlpools of 70m to 80m deep. At the bottom of these pools, exists interlinks with highly weathered fractured rock strata. Prof. Srinadhudu of CWC reported that nearly 23 tmc per day of water will be lost through these pools and fractured zones, after completion of the construction of the Polavaram Dam.
  • Normally the use of stone columns is recommended in very light compressive soils. Bearing capacity of soils in the area of construction of Earth cum Rock Fill Dam is more than 15 tons. There are doubts over the expansion of stone columns in soils having a bearing capacity greater than 15 tons. Thus there is a need to refer to the experts the use of stone columns to bear the likely coming load of 72 tons/sq.m from the project construction.
  • It was opined that installation of big spillway gates of size 16mX18.5m during the construction of Pulichinthala was a very dangerous move. In view of this, there is a need to seek an explanation for recommending install gates of size 16mX20m for Polavaram project.

The issues highlighted here are grave and will have a serious bearing on the success of the Polavaram project. It is high time the government gives some satisfactory answers on these issues and clears the air. If the government tries to brush under the carpet these important issues, the people of the state will hold it accountable and will give a fitting reply in the coming assembly elections. The YSR Congress will not tolerate any compromises with this dream project of the people of Andhra Pradesh. We will go to any extent to ensure that this dream becomes a reality.

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